On Saturday, I will be back at Elstree once more for the live finale of Strictly Come Dancing 2013 and what a show it promises to be. For the first time ever, it is an all girl final, the standard of dance is incredibly high and that, combined with the public vote, means an open field in which it is very had to predict the winner.
But Strictly is not just about the glitterball trophy, for me and many others, possibly the greater part is about people putting themselves on the line and pushing themselves into an unfamiliar arena and discovering how they respond and what they are - or are not - capable of.
As anybody who watched me and witnessed the smile wrapped across my face will know I LOVED my time on Strictly. Loving something does not make it easy and having never danced before I trained hard, knowing I would have to if I wanted to stay in the competition. I also wanted to find out what I was really capable of and knew that if I didn't give it my all, I would be left feeling " I wonder how far I could have gone?"
However hard you train and however well you have done your routine in rehearsals each and every contestant would I am sure agree with me, there is nothing to compare with the feeling of nerves excitement and in my case pure terror of standing in that ballroom and hearing " and now to dance the...". In my case, this was particularly alien as I do not generally suffer nerves but this was very different and about a far cry from my usual world of business you could get.
It is hard to comprehend how much work and effort goes into preparing for those 100 seconds on the dance floor.
For our professional dance partners, it starts with identifying our strengths and weaknesses, our different personalities and ways of learning and then creating dances which can bring out the best from us. Then there are the hours of patience-testing rehearsals where big leaps forward are consumed by massive jumps back. All the while, wardrobe are designing and making costumes to show us to our best and hair and make-up creating a look to bring it all together. The attention to detail is phenomenal, the personal commitment is huge and the will to help us all to be the very best we can be is quite overwhelming.
And Strictly is beautiful. It shines, shimmers and glides across the dance floor with its celebrity contestants rising and falling, like their footwork. Gorgeous dancers, spangly costumes, and clever choreography to have the contestants floating on the air to the pitch perfect sounds from the Dave Arch Band. Saturday night nirvana.
There is a lot of talk of the "Strictly Bubble" and since I have left it, I have had a chance to ponder exactly what that means. It is sadly a very rare thing to be in an environment where absolutely everyone you are surrounded by is helping and willing you to do well and when it happens it is magical. The other celebrity dancers, the wonderful band, Stuart the warm up comedian, the lighting guys, production crew, the live audience, EVERYONE would visibly show their support in the smallest to the biggest way and it is electric and heart warming.
But Strictly goes beyond the studio and out into the hearts and minds of a nation. It arrives at just the right moment, when nights are drawing cold and dark and it offers a warm glow through them. It allows us to see familiar faces in unfamiliar territory and to share a journey of discovery with them, seeing them tested in ways we have never seen before and showing us that there is always more to a person than the one we imagine.
But Strictly can be a cruel beauty as well and the moment of departure is as swift and as brutal as everything else has been lovely, and the emptiness that hit me the morning after my departure was deafening. Robin, my brilliant dancing partner and I had hoped we had another three or four dances in us but the early days on the show can be precarious and we left on week five.
It Is hard when you find something you love so much and to know that from the moment you leave the Strictly bubble, it will never be like that again. But business has taught me nothing if not pragmatism and there is no point wallowing and wondering because some things in life you just can't change and you certainly can't go back.
When I agreed to join Strictly I had no idea how much I would love both my time on the show and of course the dancing. I was equally surprised at how hard my departure hit me and I repeated over and over in my head.." get over it...it is only a dance show"...but that is where I was wrong, it is far more than a dance show. It is everything I have described and more. It is a time in our week that as a Nation we come together for a moment of loveliness, a moment of sharing a journey that offers us something in common with so many of our fellows and neighbours. Yes it is an entertainment show but it is important beyond that because it garners a collective goodness, and I thank goodness for the bubble of loveliness that is Strictly Come Dancing.
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